SXSW was packed with technology, long lines, inclusivity and the patriarchy. But one of the most life-affirming takeaways, indeed one of the conference's most surprisingly conscious experiences, came from an unlikely source.
Brian Solis made his name as a digital anthropologist and futurist; he is widely recognized for shaping many market trends from the emergence of Web 2.0 to startup acceleration to experience design to digital transformation and business innovation. But recently his career has evolved into something even more insightful than the sum of his research.
From Business Tech to Humanity
Previous years at Southby, Solis has spoken about experience innovation, why Silicon Valley is such a mess, and how we all got stuck like little lab rats on social media. This year, he zoomed in even further on the human condition to try to understand why our attention and concentration have fallen off the map, and what that means for those of us trying to reclaim a happy life in the age of social media.
Before a book signing during his anticipated SXSW keynote, Solis celebrated the launch of a new book in an intimate venue, sponsored by Cobalt robotics. He spoke with TechCrunch's Editor-at-Large Josh Constine at Eleanor in Austin's Warehouse District. With more than 200 participants, Solis presented his new book, Life Scale: How to Live a More Creative, Productive, and Happy Life.
Ok Google, why can't I write this book?
The book is his eighth, but Solis says it's his first personal venture. And it came about because he tried to write another book – – but hit a wall of “eternal distraction” so hard that he couldn't get the job done. Solis took a step back and wondered what was wrong, why he had such a hard time concentrating and how it connected to our increasingly technology-dominated lives. As a researcher, he unearthed the data. And Lifescale is a deep dive into what he discovered.
Clearly, Lifescale touches on many familiar well-being touch points:
- Get plenty of quality sleep
- Start with a mindfulness practice
- Update your personal core values, your purpose and use them to define a more current and personal vision and mission
But what's astounding about this presentation is the sheer volume and quality of data Solis offers as supporting evidence of our need to retreat from multitasking and Pavlovian responses to our devices and Facebook accounts. Solis juxtaposes effective short-term hacks (like the Pomodoro Technique) with a deeper exploration of our distraction problem and how to fix it for good.
The call to action comes from within the house
Solis makes his case not from the perspective of a wellness guru, but rather a Silicon Valley veteran. He doesn't fall into the temptation to smear technology with blanket judgments, but instead uses specific examples of how certain uses of technology are making us sick in certain ways, and what we can do to reverse that.
Along the way, Solis ventures from his usual marketing territory into personal, even moving insights into what it means to be human and to live life to the fullest.
Lifescale also includes some revealing tidbits about the strategies tech companies use to keep us hooked on their products. If Facebook's approach to members and their data makes you uncomfortable, wait until you hear what Netflix's CEO has to say about its viewers.
Brian is the Marie Kondo of your mind, body and soul for a modern age.
This is the book you can't get out of your head
Soli's point stuck with me. I kept thinking about them after all the SXSW dust settled, and on the plane ride home it was my newly signed copy of Lifescale that I found myself devouring. As his previous conversation indicated, there is some sort of tension growing between the Silicon Valley elite and people who are just trying to be people. With Lifescale, Solis has given us the knowledge to have power over our own consciousness again. Put it on your spring reading list.
If you're one of those people who started the new year binge-watching Marie Kondo's Tidying Up, consider this a spring cleaning for your mind. Yes, I'm saying that with a straight face, Brian Marie Kondo is for your mind, body and soul for a modern age.
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